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Democrats fume over ‘absurd’ GOP tax bill full of last-minute, handwritten edits

December 3, 2017 GMT

WASHINGTON - As a good portion of Americans were sleeping, Senate Republicans passed a $1.5 trillion tax bill in the wee hours Saturday morning.

The bill squeaked through the Senate in a 51 to 49 vote, almost entirely along party lines. To hear most GOP lawmakers tell it, the legislation was a victory to be cheered and, at last, an achievement to be flaunted heading into next year’s midterm elections.

Democrats told a different story leading up to the vote - in part because, for much of the day, there was no bill to be seen.

Only “a few hours before the vote” was a draft of the tax bill distributed to lawmakers, according to Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, one of the many Democrats who took to Twitter to lambaste the hasty process Friday night as the vote neared.

“Hey, happy holidays, everybody,” Tester said in a video posted just after 6 p.m. “It’s the night we’re going to be voting on the tax bill. I just got the tax bill 25 minutes ago.”

In both hands he held a ream of paper several inches thick, then set it on his desk with a thud. From the top of the 479-page pile, he plucked a page that contained handwritten edits scrawled in the margin.

“I want you to take a look at this, folks. This is your government at work,” Tester said in the video. “Here’s the bill as it’s written. Here’s the modifications that are in it. … Can you tell me what that word is?”

The camera zoomed into a cursive word that looked, at first blush, something like “attributabnto.”

Many Democrats also zeroed in on the manual edits as evidence that Republicans were carelessly ramming the bill through the Senate without thorough consideration.

“If you are so intent on forcing middle class families to foot the bill so your donors can have a tax break, at least have the decency to find a printer,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California tweeted at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., appending her message with the hashtag #GOPTaxScam.

Shortly after receiving the draft, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., posted two pages that were crossed out and thus seemed to be irrelevant.

“Okay this is absurd,” Menendez observed. “Is that a crossout? Is this page part of the bill? WHY AM I ASKING THESE QUESTIONS HOURS BEFORE WE VOTE ON IT??”

Several other Democrats tweeted about the same page Tester highlighted (reportedly page 257), including Sens. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Christopher Coons of Connecticut and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts attempted to read the same handwritten passage on video but couldn’t get all the way through.

“This is how we’re writing legislation now?” Sen. Mark R. Warner of Virginia asked on Twitter.

Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia replied sardonically: “Don’t worry @MarkWarner - it’s just a rewrite of the entire US tax code being scribbled down on pieces of paper. What could go wrong?”